Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Another Birthday

Our weekend was filled with birthday preparations and celebrations!

My first task of the weekend was rescuing Jenny Wren. She flew into a hole in Laura's screen in the morning and moved on out into the loft where David and Laura had her surrounded somewhere beneath bins of felted wool. They wisely closed all the doors to the bedrooms and came to get me. I managed to grab her between the shade and the window and carry her downstairs to the open front door. Such a darling bird, but always getting into trouble indoors.

I baked two cakes on Saturday: gluten-free carrot cakes. One for Laura and one for my sister which we left at her doorstep.

Saturday evening we sent Laura up to bed and everyone else helped to decorate the dining room with a "letter-themed" birthday celebration, including a stuffed owl hung from the ceiling like in Harry Potter. Special thanks to everyone who sent something in the mail. We banned Laura from the mailbox for a week and collected two dozen pieces!

 We used lots of candles to mimic a Hogwarts feel, albeit with pastel colorings.

 Laura requested waffles for her birthday breakfast. Yum yum!

No complaints on the food choice from anyone!

Surprise! Surprise! The cousins and some grandparents showed up in the afternoon for a drive-by party! Presents and candy delivered to the doorstep.

Happy Birthday Laura!

Everyone wanted a glimpse of baby Teddy, born just a few weeks before lockdown started.

Continuing with the letter theme, Laura was thrilled to receive a typewriter for her birthday!!!!

We eventually ended the day with cake and tea.

That pretty much sums up our weekend, except for "church" Sunday morning and church zoom Sunday evening. Heading into the rest of our seventh week at home.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Last Full Week of April

One of the highlights of my week was using Queen Elizabeth's birthday as an excuse to convince a child to bake a cake and to sit down and enjoy it with the kids. The beauty of the scene made me so happy, and so did the sugar and tea. 

I've been working on figuring out how to paint this garden all week. Attempts 2 and 1 pictured. Expecting more attempts this coming week! The lockdown is helping me to find a little time most days to practice art!

I've kept my sewing machine set up in the front room behind the little couch kids sit on to watch movies. This way I can get in a little sewing each evening while we watch an episode. One evening this week I sewed a few custom masks for family. The masks are improving -- these had adjustable wiring for over the nose, and an extra pocket to slip filter material in, which I now hear that stockings (hose, whatever you call them) are some of the best filter materials out there!

 I did our grocery shopping on Friday, including some for Michael's mom. Bedding plants were on sale! I got to pick out ones for my mother-in-law's front baskets.

We had a wonderful family hike mid-week in a local park (Eagle Creek, the free part). The wildflowers were amazing. I especially enjoyed the Virginia Bluebells.

I'm surprised how I've gotten into recording my little "Nature Nibbles" episodes several times a week. It's been fun to share spring as it blooms with everyone. (If you aren't on Instagram and Facebook, you can find them on Youtube -- just search for Heather LeFebvre.)

Laura and I are starting a new tradition on Friday afternoons -- baking, gardening, and watching our own movie. This week we watched the 2016 version of Pollyanna, which I thoroughly enjoyed, probably because of the lovely English village it was set in.

Laura and I got a bunch of flower seeds planted in our garden. The colors of spring are so lovely right now: blue, gray-blue, chartreuse green, baby pink, purple....

And now for the weekend! We have a birthday to celebrate. See you next week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Over the Weekend

I managed to come by this sprig of blooming crab apple and a friend brought me some of her verbena. Oh the perfume and the beauty!!!! I need to plant more blooming trees and bushes in my garden -- there seems to be a gap of beauty!

One thing I've noticed about lockdown is the amount of pictures I am not taking. There are no events to record, no beautiful tables capes created for company to photograph, no trips to gardens, etc. Mostly that's fine, because I need the rest from going, going, going, hosting, hosting, hosting. But sometimes I miss the beautiful pictures. (I took the above and below pictures to specifically record the state of our lockdown house.)

How do you like the combination of Psalms, Wind in the Willows, and Harry Potter all hanging out on the coffee table with the dead flowers! ha ha ha!

I did have fun over the weekend taking a piece of art (by Helen Dealtry) and turning it into a Harris Tweed "painting". Laura and I watched the new Little Women while I did this. Actually, I think it was the incredible wool and wool plaid outfits that the girls were wearing that inspired me to grab my stash and start cutting.

The redbud trees are blooming! You know, so much of my nature observation takes place from the van as I drive the kids everywhere and of course that is not happening now. The world I'm observing is so much smaller.

We discovered a trail on Sunday afternoon with the most wildflowers I've ever seen in one place. I was thrilled to find Wild Ginger and its flowers since I've wanted to see this for some time and haven't run across it.

We also found a beautiful, deserted inlet.

Laura has been working on her new art: card designs.

Mondays I head down to the city to continue my work as a bouquet maker. So glad flowers are considered essential in our state! yay! While waiting for my flowers to hydrate I took a walk around the neighborhood and got to enjoy these crab apple blooms!

 And then I spent the rest of Monday making these bouquets. It's been some weeks since I could buy roses and it was a special treat to unpack 96 huge coral roses.

I think I'm going to reduce the amount of my weekly Lockdown posts. I originally thought we'd only be home for 6 weeks or less and that things might become more dramatic than they have. Now that it looks like we will be in some form of lockdown for a long time, I think it would be wisest for me to limit my blogging time in order to focus on other creative pursuits. I would still like to show up here on a regular basis. We will see!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Midweek

Life on the home front is pretty much the same day after day. I'm getting into such a nice routine that I really don't want it interrupted. The cold and rainy weather has made it easier to stay indoors and there isn't the pressure of gardening to do. Although, I have been obsessive about protecting my delicate lilac blooms through three nights of frost and hard frost so far, one more to go. Lilacs are such beautiful gifts of spring and they only last about a week and I WAIT ALL YEAR FOR THEM! I cannot have the bad weather stealing my joy! So, we relocated the bird feeder to the lilac bush and it acts as a support to drape a large quilt over. I'm hoping for blooms next week. The lilac traditionally blooms around Laura's birthday.

Meals, schoolwork, desk work, reading, drinking tea, watching an episode of Foyle's War, that pretty much sums up our days right now. I try to throw in a little closet tidying, some texting, and a few hours of research and painting as well.

I am pondering what changes I want to take with me into life after lockdown. Is there a way I could actually stay at home at least 3-4 days a week?! (Instead of maybe only just 1?) Could I keep my calendar more clear? Could I simplify grocery shopping and shopping in general? A lot of it comes down to choosing simpler and less and saying no. I'm going to need a lot of mental strength!

It feels very odd to have April 15 pass and not have turned in my taxes. I won't feel right until they are done and turned in. But I do like putting them off because it is such a mental task for me, and so complicated. Maybe I should take time to start this Saturday.

David finally finished up his mask! 

Laura is loving her discovery of writing and receiving letters by real mail! It makes me so happy since so much of my under 20-s life was spent centered around the letters I wrote and received. I think she sent out four this morning! Ten more days and she turns 10! Yikes!

Food Eaten: tea and toast for breakfast most days, sausage and onions with potatoes or rice and broccoli and asparagus Wednesday, Korean chicken and rice with veg on Thursday. Thursday lunch was pancakes with fruit! Wednesday lunch was leftover soup.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Back Inside

Do you wake up every morning and have that lightbulb moment of recognition a few seconds after wakening where you remember we are in a pandemic? It happens to me every morning. And my first daily act of self-care is to take those thoughts and channel them in the right direction. I do a lot of taking my mind by the hand and leading it where it should go instead of where it wants to go. Every morning I have to remind myself of some basic truths before I do anything else: I don't need to live in fear, I am a person of faith and my trust is in the God who has every detail of this under control, I can walk through another day one step at a time. 

A big part of keeping my mind where it needs to be involves keeping my world small.  Oh I get the news via email once or twice a day, and my husband shares some with me, and I might hear a late night show clip before bed, but that's enough. And I try to remember I don't need to take on the entire world's problems, and tears, and griefs. I can briefly hand those to God in prayer and then focus my emotional and prayer energy on my family, my friends, and my immediate community.

I find it very interesting that I'm not taking many photos right now. In fact I often struggle to find one photo to post with my update. We are doing the same things everyday. And I'm not getting out and about to find new and exciting things that must be caught on camera. But, I don't miss those things I'm not doing or seeing. I love thinking about these pieces of information and what they might mean.

I love days of routine and that was our Tuesday. School for the kids, painting for me, work in his office for Michael, research and reading in the afternoon and then housework and tidying in the late afternoon and early evening. And some sewing while watching our evening half episode of Foyle's War.

Food Eaten: Tea and Toast and fruit salad, leftover soup and more fruit salad, leftover cake, more leftover soup and toast! One rice krispie treat nest for dessert. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Easter

Easter weekend has come and gone. A photo journal entry seemed appropriate to record the days as they happened. 

I went to the grocery store Friday morning, enmasked. It wasn't as difficult as I thought and not as crowded as I expected. People are all polite about social distancing. The store had all the necessary items on my list too!

Friday afternoon I did some art projects with David and Laura -- we made poster signs for our evening adventure and I watercolored some egg cards. We also made an extra large snack: deviled eggs, rice krispie nests, and Brazilian cheese puffs. We were all delighted to enjoy such a delicious afternoon snack!

After tea time, James grabbed his bagpipes and we took our posters and we headed out to wish grandparents and family a Happy Easter from the safety of the curbside. The sound of the bagpipes drew people out of their houses to observe our Easter greetings on the posters. The family even got to meet their newest cousin for the first time in person (of course from 12 feet away).

Saturday seemed like an all-day bake-a-thon, even though there were only six of us for Easter this year rather than the crowd we typically host. Laura helped me make hot cross buns and gluten-free hot cross buns and a gluten-free bunny cake.

The regular hot cross buns looked and smelled amazing. The gluten-free ones, not so much. Maybe I should stick to gluten-free scones flavored like hot cross buns. 

 I met with my London girls for an hour on Zoom -- we even sketched and drank tea while we talked! ha ha!

 Saturday evening we ate grilled cheese and tomato soup and then got the house tidied and the table set for Sunday.

Sunday morning we enjoyed our buns and our typical morning worship service at home with the recorded sermon. Michael gets to watch himself preach! Afterward we sat down for Easter lunch: ham, rice salad, asparagus, and fruit salad.

I insisted we get a family photo despite the cold and wind. Just so you know -- we are standing on a slope, so some kids appear taller than they are!

The egg hunt had to be held indoors due to the weather. Michael and Drew hid the eggs and the younger three found them.

And since we had no guests this year the three kids got to have ALL the eggs to themselves!

We re-gathered for tea and dessert at 5:30 right before our evening church Zoom meeting. We had Laura's delicious gluten-free bunny cake. I think it's the best cake we've made in a long time. We used  this recipe without the cake enhancer.

 We also made some FaceTime calls to family and friends. All-in-all it was a very different Easter, but a restful one given the circumstances.

And then it was Monday and time to go back to work at my flower therapy job -- 30 bouquets for the market to sell. I think flowers are even more important right now because everyone is stuck inside. Creating bouquets brings me joy, but I am always very tired when I get home, and am careful not to plan much the rest of the day!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Easter Weekend

In which I discuss Zoom, painting, and chicken stir-fry....

Did you know that Zoom has an "improve your appearance" setting? I can't stop laughing about this! I learned this useful information on one of my favorite podcasts yesterday (Happier in Hollywood -- a bizarre podcast choice for me it would seem, but oddly one I rarely miss an episode of). Anyway, under the preferences or settings, there is indeed a checkbox marked "improve my appearance" and it actually works! It's like instantly putting on make-up. Who knew?! Another reason for me not to worry about make-up for many months to come!

This whole virus situation is forcing us all to improve on our technology. Zoom this and FaceTime that. I hope our future life will take advantage of some of this stuff to keep me home more! Special thanks today to Hope, our bagpipe teacher (and friend!), who Face-Timed in for James' lesson.

I am making a priority of sitting down with my paints about five times a week right now. It helps that I have a table where my paints can be constantly out. And, I'm learning to work on 2-5 paintings at once, since with watercolor and gouache there is a lot of pausing to let things dry. I've been painting spring flowers as they bloom as well as finishing up some commissions.

The weather is colder again, although the sun is deceivingly bright. I'm worried about my beautiful lilacs which should bloom in one more week but are going to be in trouble with the three nights of frost coming up. I do think I see lettuce and radishes popping up in the garden! A gratifying sight after all the hard work I put in.

The kids continue with their online school. Certain ones have more work to do than others -- the 4th grader has more than the 8th grader? And the sophomore more than the senior? Some are bored, others are busy and contented.

We had chicken stir fry for dinner which was delicious and everyone ate up happily. I took a rest after dinner because I was so tired. It was peaceful lying on my bed and staring out the window at the sky and the greening trees and the white blossoms. We ended the evening with Foyle's War and I tried to knit but I've been doing so many creative things that my arms are now in a roaring fire of pain and I can't find my splints!

Food Eaten: leftover rice and hotdog, muffins, chicken stir-fry

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Ordinary Days

In which I discuss the tiny miracles of everyday life....

The days run into each other now and at an overall glance seem so ordinary, and yet if I followed myself around with a camera I would remember that these days are filled with so many extraordinary moments: like the storm that rolled in last night and made the Bradford Pear trees glow with white, or the hidden stream I stood beside and heard a miniature waterfall in the distance while walking down the wooded path, or the nodding heads of the Lenten Roses I was given as they settled into their new location, or the child that cooperated when asked to do garden chores, or the hotdogs in the fridge that allowed for an easier dinner, or the soothing feeling of cotton fabric layers sliding through my fingers into the sewing machine, or the joy on my daughter's face when she gets a letter in the mail, or the sound of the bagpipes signaling someone is practicing without being reminded, or the extraordinarily loud sound of peepers in our woods which I've never heard before, or the metallic green bug hopping down the sidewalk in front of me, or the uncommon patience of the cello teacher with my son who likes to crack dad jokes in the middle of a serious conversation about music, or the few moments to capture spring blossoms with paint and paper, or sitting outside for dinner and it being tolerably warm out, or the unexpected answer to a prayer for something specific, or finding grape hyacinths blooming by the front door. These are things that so easily slip my mind when I try to remember what happened yesterday.

Food Eaten: tea and toast, leftover chicken and rice, Dundee cake for tea!!, hotdogs, asparagus, and sweet potatoes for dinner, with a piece of toast before bed.